Building Character in SWTOR

Star Wars: The Old Republic is a mere two weeks away at this point, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how exactly I want to play the game.  Which when I say that out loud, it sounds a bit weird.  You play the game the way its meant to be played right?  Well, in another Bioware creation – Mass Effect – you would routinely hear about people going paragon or renegade.  It was a defining aspect of their characters. Right up there with what gender their Commander Shepard was.  So I imagine that there’s a good deal of thought in people’s minds about whether they will be choosing to follow the Light Side or the Dark Side in SWTOR.

To be fair, the light side and dark side don’t exactly always relate to the force in the Old Republic.  Sometimes they just reflect moral choices.  Do you help the innocent people?  Do you follow orders regardless of their plight?  Do you do your job and kill the target regardless of their good intentions?  That kind of thing.  It’s not always so cut and clear as to what will be a light side or dark side option, and I remember in the few beta weekends that I played in that it was a big complaint that I kept seeing that which responses had light or dark points assigned to them were “stupid”.  Following orders from your superiors is dark side? The hell?  What if I want be a light side trooper that isn’t insubordinate?

Well, I did some thinking on that exact topic and I came to a conclusion: I’m not going to aim for any kind of alignment.  Oh yes, I might completely miss out on the dark side or light side rewards, but Bioware has said that they fully intend on adding a “gray” alignment vendor sometime post launch, and I imagine that will have a roughly equivilant selection to the other extremes.  So the question is why worry so much about aiming for a certain alignment?  Why not come up with a good character and let that decide what alignment you end up?

In my beta reaction post a few weeks ago, I mentioned my Jedi consular.  That was a character that developed quite quickly within the first few cut scenes and was based almost entirely on his voice, mannerisms, and what the NPCs were telling him.  From that little bit of information, I was able to concoct an entertaining and fun to play point of view that had this prideful and greedy consular raking in the dark side points.  But he did manage to gather a few light side points on the way.  Without spoiling too much, your given a choice in a fairly early quest to either help a group of wounded Jedi trainees get revenge on their attackers or scold them for not remembering that a Jedi does not believe in revenge.  Now if I was playing a strict dark side path, I’d go the revenge route all the way, but this holier-than-thou consular would never pass up a chance to rub these trainees noses in his pride and quickly scolded them for their anger.  Netting him some light side points and making him a huge hypocrite in the process. I liked the idea of him being a complete hypocrite.

By developing a personality first, it can be a fun surprise to see exactly what alignment you end up with.  During the Thanksgiving beta weekend, I used the opportunity to play the first few levels of every class to get a feel for their opening story and their voices to develop a bit of personality for them.  Now, I did this for every class, because I am a certified altaholic and fully plan to eventually get through each and every class in the game, even more so than WoW because of the unique story associated with all 8 base classes.  Here’s a couple that I came up with:

Jedi Knight: He wants to be a hero in a classical sense.  His goals in life are to vanquish evil, save the galaxy and get the girl.  Helpful and kind, he will risk life and limb for those in need.

Trooper: A cyborg that follows orders – always.  Almost robotic in her mentality, she can be ruthless when the mission requires it.

Bounty Hunter: He lives by a code.  Always complete the job, take any job that doesn’t interfere with an existing one, never betray your employer unless they betray you first, and never make it personal.  He won’t take a bribe regardless of how many credits they offer. After all, who wants to hire a Hunter that will turn at the slightest pay increase?

Sith Inquisitor: Betrayed by a former rival, shamed and exiled into a life of slavery, he has returned for revenge and the claim the power that is rightfully his.  He is merciless and unsympathetic.  He does not respect anyone and hates everyone.

Now those are just simple concepts, but from just that you can get a feel for how these characters would respond to a myriad of choices.  Some follow strict guidelines, others aspire toward something.  However, I think this creates a unique kind of fun of ‘how will they turn out’.  I honestly don’t know how many of these characters storylines will go, and exactly how they will progress and what alignment they will end up with come level 50.  I mean, you can easily imagine the Sith inquisitor going very, very dark side.  Considering the inquisitor starts as a slave, and I’m interested in playing a sith pureblood, you have to imagine how insanely hateful he would have to be in that situation.

From just my brief play time in the beta however, I can say that I enjoyed coming up with characters instead of just defaulting to ‘dark side’ or ‘light side’ regardless.  I always hated doing that in Mass Effect.  Especially since a high Paragon/Renegade was more or less required in parts of ME2.  So a chance to explore the possibilities of different alignments with different characters seems like such a fun route to take, I would whole heartily suggest it.  In that spirit, I offer you these handy tips for fleshing out your character:

1. Voice:  Each class and gender combination has a different voice.  What does that voice say about the character to you?  Do they sound strict and orderly?  How about egotistical or humble?

2. Look:  While your looks are customizable, you can often stumble upon one that just screams a concept into your mind.  I once made a female blood elf death knight with white skin, white hair that looked wet and dripped over her face. For some reason, it just felt right.  She immediately went frost and I quickly built her around the idea of being a cold ‘ice queen’ of a character that was harsh and practical in undeath.  She didn’t make her prey suffer, but she would also not hesitate to kill you if you wasted her time.  All of that was just came from her appearance.

3. Story and NPC interaction:  My consular was originally designed to look like Morpheus from the Matrix.  Which seemed like a good idea for a Jedi that sought truth and wisdom in ancient relics.  However, as soon as those first cut scenes took off, he completely changed gears.  The waves of compliments quickly formed in this egotistical Jedi that only cared for his own success.  The things the NPCs say to you and how you respond to them, as well as the actually plotline surrounding your character can give you a lot of ideas for fleshing out the details.  My Sith inquisitor’s concept is partially trying to fit the race I wanted with the story I was given, and viola! A twisted and dark incarnation of the Count of Monte Cristo forms in my mind.  I would recommend playing to level 4-5 and see if anything strikes you.  It takes a short enough time that deleting and re-rolling won’t feel like much of a waste, and you’ll be able to develop a character with an informed decision on where they will be starting out.

Well, that’s about all I can really say on the matter of coming up with a character.  In a game like The Old Republic, it doesn’t have to be about role-playing after all.  Since your characters all have a storyline to play through, it can help get you through some of those decisions, which dialogue options to choose, and what actions they will take.  It can make playing through the exact same quests that much more interesting because you will be coming to theme from a completely different point of view than on another play through.  I hope you give it a try.

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Posted on December 6, 2011, in The Old Republic and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hah! For the “get revenge or not get revenge” decision I came to the same decision in a totally different way… from my consular’s voice and mannerisms, I decided that she was practical and realistic. As such, of COURSE these MORONS should get back to base. Jedi code, schmedi code, you save your skin first, duh.

    • That’s part of why I really think this works in terms of developing character. I don’t think many people are going to read into the characters quite the same way. So personalities will develop in many different directions and probably spread out even more so as they level up.

      On a quirky side-note, my Jedi Knight DID get dark side points for taking revenge in that situation, because to him it was vanquishing an evil that injured a comrade.

  2. I’m going to do exactly the same as you; I’m not going to make my choices based on points. I want my character to be me. If I feel like it I’ll roll an alt to max out light or dark points. Playing out my story path I want to take is more important than a gear choice at end game. I can always change my gear but not my path along the way.

    • I always figure worse comes to worse, I can always “force” an alignment by repeating a flashpoint where I had made in character choices that coincide with the desired moral compass point.

      Not saying that I will do that, but it’s always an option. Hence, no need to force my story toward any particular direction.

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